Post Office scandal: Over 20 law firms under investigation

The solicitors’ regulator is investigating possible professional misconduct by firms and solicitors who worked for the Post Office or Royal Mail Group.

Post Office scandal: Over 20 law firms under investigation

A Post Office van parked outside the venue for the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry at Aldwych House on January 11, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

By:
Pramod Thomas

THE Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has initiated probe into potential professional misconduct involving more than 20 law firms and individual solicitors connected to the Post Office scandal, reported The Times.

The watchdog’s statement last week marked first official confirmation of the number of firms and lawyers potentially facing disciplinary action.

The SRA, which oversees over 180,000 lawyers in England and Wales, specified that the investigations pertain to solicitors and law firms that represented the Post Office or Royal Mail Group. However, it withheld the names of those under scrutiny.

The authority said that none of the investigations would conclude until the completion of the ongoing public inquiry into the Post Office scandal, which is considered the UK’s largest miscarriage of justice. Over 700 sub-postmasters were wrongfully prosecuted for fraud, theft, and false accounting.

This confirmation comes shortly after Ron Warmington, a specialist from the consultancy Second Sight, testified before the inquiry.

Warmington, recruited by the Post Office in 2012 to review cases linked to the defective Horizon accounting system, expressed his frustration with the obstructive tactics used by Post Office lawyers to hinder the investigation. He described the responses to Second Sight’s questions as “weasel worded” and “filtered” by legal counsel.

The watchdog’s statement elaborated that its investigation focuses on the “management and supervision” of private prosecution cases against sub-postmasters initiated by the Post Office. It will also examine issues related to “disclosure obligations and improper application of privilege to protect communications from disclosure.”

Furthermore, the regulator is investigating the Post Office’s complaint review and mediation scheme, looking into allegations of “overcharging of claimants, use of non-disclosure agreements, and the labelling of correspondence.”

Officials said that these investigations involved “multiple, multifaceted issues” of potential misconduct, noting that new issues and evidence continue to emerge from the public inquiry. They anticipate additional relevant evidence as the inquiry progresses, particularly concerning the conduct of group litigation and governance.

Last month, it was revealed during the inquiry that a lawyer within the Post Office’s criminal law team received evidence of a bug in the Horizon IT system just three days before postmistress Seema Misra’s trial.

The report indicated that the bug had caused cash shortages at numerous branches. Misra, who was eight weeks pregnant at the time, was convicted of theft and sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2010. Her conviction was quashed in 2021.